Every year within weeks of the release of the NBA schedule (and still months from training camp) the “experts” will go ahead tell you who the playoff teams are going to be and who’s going to be left out in the cold. At this point I barely see the need to play the games since about 50 writers on Bleacher Report already told me who will be playing in May and June (I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t seen for yourself yet). All I can think when I read the articles is that they know about as much as my favorite weatherman while they claim to be related to Nostradamus.
Knowing that I’m no better I think that’s exactly what makes this forecast more realistic right of the bat. I don’t even need to say that my opinions are biased and that I only care about the Warriors prospects. I can also come right out and admit that when they go ahead with the formality of actually playing the games I’ll probably be proven not to know shit. Instead of trying to call every game as a win or a loss (which I’ll probably do with my wallet on sportsbook.com more then a few times during the season) I’m going to breakdown our opponents based on the contenders, pretenders and rear enders in each conference.
Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs (4 games each):
These are the true contenders in the West that we play four times each. With Finals and Olympics experience under their belts the Thunder’s trio of stars aren’t going anywhere. They are going to continue stepping forward and even if the Spurs take a step back (as expected) they are the two teams that worry me the most. Maybe my Laker Hater ways just have me seeing red, I just like the way we match up with them. Once you get past Nash and Howard’s bad backs, Kobe’s bad knees and Pau’s ugly mug their best players are RonMetta ArtestPeace and Antawn Jamison.
Verdict: 3-9 • We can take at least one home game from each of these teams but I see a bloodbath waiting in OKC. If we’re healthy this prediction could be considered conservative but if we’re not it’s probably going to be worse then nine losses in twelve games.
Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers (4 games each):
Our matchups with the Clippers are going to be interesting only if Chris Paul’s knees hold up; hopefully he didn’t hit Germany with Kobe while they were winning gold in Europe. Blake Griffin will be working through a knee issue of his own but I think it’s his lack of skill and LO-K’s (Lamar Odom-Kardashian) lack of heart that give us the advantage here. Overpaying a past his prime Jamal Crawford to be a poor mans Monta Ellis isn’t going to sway my opinion on this one. I’m more worried about Denver to be honest because they are athletic, fast and deep. Those three little Nuggets (lame pun intended) coupled with their Mile High advantage are a deadly mixture.
Verdict: 4-4 • I’m going out on a limb to say we split these games and I’m predicting we take the season series against the Clippers and drop an extra contest to the Nuggets.
Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Portland Trailblazers (3 games each):
This is going to be the most important 12 games we’ll play this season. The tiebreakers at stake here won’t be for a lottery pick this time around. Some combination of these three teams and the Warriors will occupy the five through eight spots on the playoff tree. I think we can actually own three of the four matchups but the Grizzlies still scare me. If Golden State can own the Mavericks and split with the others or just go 2-1 against all of them we may just come out of this group with a playoff spot.
Verdict: 8-4 • I’m going to get crazy by assuming that we have a healthy roster this season (if I didn’t I could have cut this article off after a paragraph or two) and giving the Warriors the edge against all of the teams in this dogfight.
The Rear Enders
New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns (4 games each):
These are the teams we should be expected to beat on a regular basis. People say that Minnesota will be our main competition for one of the final playoff spots but I don’t see it. If Ricky Rubio isn’t back and ready to start the season (and he won’t be) they’re sunk. Luke Ridnour wasn’t a starting point guard on a playoff team before he was washed up. Sacramento is hanging by a thread on all fronts; the Hornets are years away with or without the Unibrow; the Rockets are a bunch of spare parts assembled for a trade that didn’t happen and the Suns are just going to suck. Pheonix did win the Luis Scola Sweepstakes but they also added Jermaine Oneal’s corpse which evens that deal out.
Verdict: 15-5 • If we don’t feast on these inexperienced and mish mashed teams we’re the ones that are going to be rear enders.
Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls (2 games each):
Last year we stole one early in the season against the Heat that really just masked what needed to be done for a couple of months after…an all out tank job. We should take one of our two meetings with them this season. That statement alone is progress. We can spread them out and burn them down low like few others can. These are going to be fun games, unless Bogut isn’t ready for them. As for the Bulls and the Celtics, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t split our games with them at the very least. This whole confidence in the Warriors thing is really starting to grow on me. I better tone it down a little.
Verdict: 3-3 • We are taking two of the three home games against the East’s three best teams and right now I’m assuming we can steal another one or two on the road.
Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks (2 games):
This is where Bob Fitzgerald exclaims, “If the Warriors played in the East they’d be a shoe in for the playoffs!” Out of the remaining Eastern Conference playoff teams the Sixers and Pacers probably present the biggest challenges. They are young, deep and hungry…sound familiar? The Knicks can probably beat anyone on any given night and will also beat themselves nearly as often. The Hawks and Nets can both match up pretty well to start the game but a Jay-Z / Kanye West diss track won’t help them against our second unit.
Verdict: 5-5 • In many ways some of this group presents more problems for the Warriors then Boston or Chicago. Even though they aren’t contenders they are deep. On paper it seems like there might actually be eight legitimate playoff teams in the east this year.
The Rear Enders
Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Washington Bullets, Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors (2 games each):
Expect this duo to shoot the Bucks out of a lot of games this year
The bottom half of the Eastern Conference is like the floater in the toilet that just won’t flush. If the Warriors don’t use these games to pad our win loss record we’re going to be in trouble. Our big Western Conference wins will be meaningless if we don’t take full advantage of these 14 dates. I expect Monta Ellis to put up a fight against his former team before he and Brandon Jennings ultimately shoot the Bucks out of those games. The Raptors and Bullets are terrible and the Pistons, Raptors or Cavs are at least a season away from being mediocre. Orlando and Charlotte will be the fighting for the number one pick this year and if any of those contests end up in losses (like the Bobcats game last year) I’m going to be sick. I still can’t believe we were one of the six wins for the worst team in history last season. If they I’m going to call Latrell Sprewell and ask him to “talk” to Mark Jackson for us.
Verdict: 11-3 • Every loss against any of these teams will be just as devastating as a win against the Lakers, Thunder or Heat would be encouraging. I’ll just leave it at that.
I predict a Finals rematch but Kevin Durant just might need to go through the Warriors to get there
Recap: It’s quite simple really. Stay healthy, beat the teams you’re supposed, handle business against your closest rivals and steal a couple at home against the cream of the crop. That is pretty much the recipe every year but this is the first time since 07-08 that we can really be expected to do that. If Stephen Curry’s or especially Andrew Bogut’s ankles are not up to the task I will be issuing full refunds for this column and removing it from the site by January.
Final Verdict: 46-36 • The Warriors have a playoff roster but so do about eight or nine other Western Conference teams. I tried to be optimistic (mostly on the health front) and realistic at the same time. All I know is that everyone, including the fans, will need to be ready to do their part this season. I was encouraged after I predicted 46 wins before looking at the schedule and then landed on that number in this exercise. Now I’m taking that number to the Sports Book!